Composer Jonathan Elias's The Prayer Cycle has yet to be performed live. Until now.
On Sunday, April 28, Branford High School (BHS) Choir makes history by premiering Elias's powerful, nine-part choral and orchestral song cycle, live, at Woolsey Hall. Adding to the excitement, late last week, Elias notified the choir he will travel to New Haven to attend the show.
BHS Choir Director Cathyann Roding contacted Elias last summer to receive permission to premiere The Prayer Cycle as a live performance.
"It was recorded and premiered in 1999, but it was never performed in its entirety. So it's the first performance of the work, which is pretty amazing," said Roding.
The concert will feature a 155-person BHS choir and a 50-piece professional orchestra performing in the symphonic space that is Yale's Woolsey Hall. A contemporary choral symphony, lyrics of The Prayer Cycle span 12 languages: Hungarian, Hebrew, Latin, Swahili, Tibetan, Urdu, Mali, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and English.
Interspersed between songs on April 28, members of Branford's clergy will provide readings of the inspiring poems Elias set to music to create The Prayer Cycle.
"Just the names of the movements are so compelling themselves," said Roding of the cycle's nine songs: "Mercy," "Strength," "Hope," "Compassion," "Grace," "Innocence," Forgiveness," "Benediction," and "Faith."
Until now, fans of The Prayer Cycle have only been able to enjoy its recorded version, featuring vocalists including Alanis Morissette, James Taylor, and Linda Ronstadt, together with the American Boy Choir and The English Chamber Orchestra & Chorus.
Of her student performers, Roding said, "They take on any challenge, but in this performance they do more than just the music. They feel it in their hearts and souls. That's what this concert is-it's an offering of all that."
In keeping with that sentiment, BHS Choir members will be the first Branford residents to sign the Sandy Hook Promise, said the concert's executive director, Greg Nobile. The April 28 concert will also be dedicated to the Sandy Hook Promise, and education and outreach effort working to keep the country safer from tragedies like the Dec. 14, 2012 school shooting.
"As the work is a call to peace throughout the world, the BHS Choir will be signing on and dedicating the concert to the Sandy Hook Promise," explained Nobile.
A BHS choir alumnus, Nobile heads up Leo Minor Productions and has been hard at work helping Roding promote The Prayer Cycle concert. Another BHS choir alumnus, WTNH News 8 anchor Chris Velardi, will host the April 28 event.
Roding said she's hoping the public will come out to be a part of the premiere and to share in a day of healing.
"I feel if there's a time in the world that we need a global hug or getting together in the spirit of peace, it's now," said Roding, adding, "What's very disturbing is what seems like the random violence that breaks out everywhere, and I just feel like we're somehow missing this human touch. We need to get back to that. So it's an offering. It's a way of my students trying to heal themselves and offer a way for people to heal, even if it's for an afternoon."
BHS Choir presents the live premiere performance of The Prayer Cycle on Sunday,
April 28 at 2 p.m. at Woolsey Hall, Yale University Campus, 500 College Street at Grove Street, New Haven. All tickets are $10, available in advance by calling 203-315-7998, ext. 2500, and at the door. Round-trip bus transportation from Branford High School to Woolsey Hall is available; $3 bus reservations must be made in advance by calling the ticket line. For more information on BHS Choir and The Prayer Cycle, visit www.thechoirlobby.com.